Plumbing Jargon: What Does it All Mean?

As the average homeowner, your knowledge of plumbing jargon is likely to be less than comprehensive, but when you have a problem, it does pay to know your airlocks from your downpipes. This can allow you to identify the issue and potentially even find a simple fix yourself.

So, if you’re unsure about u-bends and baffled by ballcocks, here’s our glossary of common plumbing terms to help.

Airlock – An airlock occurs when a pocket of air becomes trapped in pipework and cannot escape naturally. The result is that little or no water can flow through the pipe and your water pressure is reduced.

Automatic air vent – This mechanical device is usually fitted at the highest point of a plumbing system to automatically release the trapped air.

Ballcock – A valve that’s used to control the flow of water into a tank or cistern. The valve is controlled by a float that sits on the surface of the water and opens or closes a tap according to the height of the ball.

Check valve – A plumbing fitting that’s used to allow water to flow in one direction only.

Cistern – Cisterns are the open vessels at the back of a toilet with removable lids where the ballcock sits. The cistern exists to maintain a backup of fresh water that can be used to flush a toilet in the event of a failure in the water supply.

Cold water storage tank – A fixed container that holds a supply of water at atmospheric pressure that can be used to provide domestic cold water or supply a vented hot water system.

Combination (‘combi’) boiler – A compact and efficient unit that includes both a domestic water heater and a central heating boiler. A combi boiler heats water as and when it’s required rather than storing hot water like conventional heating and hot water systems.

Downpipe – A downpipe is typically installed along guttering to allow the easy drainage of rainwater. If a downpipe is blocked or not installed correctly, it can cause serious damage to a property.

Drain valve – A simple device that allows the contents of a water heater or storage tank to be drained.

Dual flush – A toilet cistern that allows you to choose between a water saving or full volume flush depending on how the handle is operated.

Grey water – The wastewater from kitchen appliances and baths and sinks that has been used but is only mildly dirty.

Heat exchange – A unit that transfers heat from a burner to water and gas to provide hot water and central heating in your home.

Mixer tap – A tap that has separate cold and hot water inputs but a single output. The required temperature and flow of the water are controlled by a single tap which makes it easier to find a comfortable temperature.

O-ring – A circular rubber sealing ring often found in mixer taps and waste pipe fittings that prevents water or gas from passing through an opening.

Overflow pipe – This pipe is connected to a tank or cistern to allow any surplus water to be discharged into an area without causing damage. This will only usually be used if there is a fault with the system.

Pressure relief valve – An essential safety device in a heating boiler or system that allows excess pressure to be relieved. The valve will reset itself once the pressure has returned to normal.

Stopcock – A control tap for your mains water supply that regulates the flow of water through a pipe. If you have a burst pipe or broken tap, the stopcock can prevent major water damage to your property. The mains stopcock can usually be found under the kitchen sink. 

Thermostatic radiator valve – This is the valve in a radiator that automatically opens and closes to achieve the temperature that has been pre-set for a room.

U-bend – The u-shaped piece of pipe often found under a toilet or sink that holds water in its lower part to prevent unpleasant gases from escaping.

If there are any other examples of plumbing jargon that have left you scratching your head, please get in touch with Anglia Drain Doctor for a friendly explanation with no strings attached!

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